almost as old as psychology , with the first papers published in the 19th century . More recently , the number of articles on this topic has seen exponential growth . Gustav Kuhn is one of the drivers of this research through the Magic Lab at Goldsmiths University . The broad question of interest in most of these studies is how magicians deceive people . This research is interesting for magicians who like to perfect their techniques . More importantly , this research also generalises broader questions about how humans perceive the world .
Sociology and anthropology have a long-standing interest in magic . Initially , anthropologists directed their attention toward magicians and shamans in traditional societies , some of which use sleight-of-hand as part of their rituals . Since decolonisation , anthropologists have focused more on western societies , including theatrical magicians . The main question of interest for sociologists and anthropologists is how magicians organise themselves , transmit their secret knowledge , and the meaning of magic within contemporary society .
The field of performance studies is a significant aspect of the social sciences researching magic . The underlying question in this field of study is the place of magic within the performance arts . Traditionally , literature
The Huddersfield University publishes the Journal of Performance Magic , dedicated to publishing articles on theatrical magic that provide a wide perspective of the art of magic .
Also linguists have directed their attention to magic by looking at how the words used in performances enhance the deceptive quality of a magic trick . Linguistic interest in magic is not only theoretical . Magicians have enhanced the English dictionary with words and phrases such as “ gimmick ” and “ smoke and mirrors ”.
Performing magic seems to be a male-dominated activity , with only a fraction of magicians being female performers . Several scholars in gender studies have tried to find an answer to this imbalance . Fortunately , the number of female magicians is gradually increasing , enhancing our craft ’ s diversity .
Film studies analyses cinema from the past and present and is as such an offshoot of performance studies . French magician Georges Méliès is the father of all special effects . He invented a lot of new techniques in the early days of cinema . Cinema and magic still have a lot in common in the 21st century . They both present the viewer with a world where the seemingly impossible becomes possible .
The historiography of magic ( the science of writing the history of magic ) has evolved much in the past decades . Early magic history books focus on the magician as the story ’ s hero . Contemporary history books focus less on individuals and place magicians and their art within the context of the society in which they live .
Lastly , scholars in legal studies have investigated issues with intellectual property in magic . The magical literature is littered with disputes about originality and claims of plagiarism , which makes it a fertile field for experts in this area .
The applied sciences , such as teaching , engineering and health care , use the formal , natural and social sciences as mechanisms to improve reality . For example , teachers transmit knowledge , engineers create the physical world we live in , and medical professionals help us live long healthy lives . The magic literature in the applied sciences describes how magic tricks and the methods of magicians can help these professionals quest to improve the world .
The most common applications of magic are in education and health care . For example , mathematics and science teachers use magic tricks to explain otherwise abstract concepts and enhance the learning experience . Many magic tricks that use physics , chemistry or mathematics are ideal vehicles to engage students in the subject .
Nurses , dentists and doctors use magic tricks to reduce anxiety in children before treatment . Magic in health care is not only a passive form of entertainment to engender positive emotions in patients . Performing magic tricks by the patients themselves can increase their self-esteem . Patients of occupational therapists can use magic to improve their manual dexterity . Programs , such as Kevin Spencer ’ s Healing of Magic , trains therapists to use magic in their practice .
Also computer scientists have started experimenting with magic tricks . Both magicians and software designers create virtual realities . The computer screen is the theatre of the software developer , and deception is also an integral part of Artificial Intelligence and robotics . For example , you might think that you are chatting to a person while in actual fact , you are responding to a string of words generated by an algorithm . The computer has no idea what these words mean , and we are deceived into believing we converse with a person . Software developers don ’ t necessarily use the same techniques as magicians , but perhaps they should embrace them to improve the deceptiveness of their software .
New Avenues of Inspiration
This article barely touches the surface of the amount of available literature about science and magic . We can conclude from this safari into the bibliography of the magical sciences that there is no such thing as the science of magic . Eugene Burger used to say that the house of magic has many rooms . This analogy does not only apply to magicians but can easily be extended to the sciences . Likewise , the house of science also has many rooms and thus provides multiple perspectives on magic .
Reading scientific literature about magic is not only beneficial for experts in their respective fields . Magicians can learn from the science of magic as it can enhance their methods , provide inspiration for their scripts , and generally increase appreciation of the art . For scientists and professionals , studying magic is a rewarding activity that can inspire and revitalise the mind and open new avenues of inspiration .
if you like to learn more about the relationship between magic and science , then visit the magicperspectives . net website , which lists the complete bibliography and links to the various papers . ■
DR . PETER PREVOS
With over three decades of experience as a water engineer and manager , and a PhD in business , Peter has worked on multiple continents including Europe , Africa , Asia , and Australia . He aspires to become the Willy Wonka of the water industry by developing new ways to solve old problems . Currently , Peter is responsible for developing and implementing the data science strategy at a water utility company in regional Australia . The objective of his strategy is to create value from data through useful , sound , and aesthetic data science .